The Arizona Coyotes, one of the worst franchises in the NHL, might be getting new ownership. Alex Meruelo, who owns the casino SLS Las Vegas, is pursuing ownership of the Coyotes, according to spokespeople for both him and the team.
Current owner, Andrew Barroway, who became the sole owner in 2017, has been looking to sell the team for at least a year. According to multiple reports, Barroway would sell a majority of the team, and keep an undetermined percentage.
Approval of the deal still needs to be ratified by the NHL Board of Governors. That item is expected to be discussed when the group meets on June 19.
This is not the first time Meruelo has tried to be a professional sports owner. He attempted to acquire the Atlanta Hawks in 2011, but was unsuccessful.
Deal Looking Good
The Coyotes have struggled to gain popularity in Arizona, since moving from Winnipeg to Phoenix in 1996. The NHL took ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes franchise in 2009 after owner Jerry Moyes turned it over to the league after declaring bankruptcy.
The team moved into a new arena in Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, but has not had much success there. Barroway has been searching for a new home, and had a deal in place to build a facility for the 2020 season in Tempe, another suburb of Phoenix. The deal fell through, however, when Arizona State University, which was partnering with the Coyotes, pulled out of the project.
This plan, though, has the support of the both parties, and looks headed for approval, though neither Meruelo or the Coyotes executives got into specifics.
“While we are unable to provide more in-depth information at this time, we can confirm Alex Meruelo … has expressed interest in purchasing the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyote,” Christopher Abraham, spokesman for the Meruelo Group, said in a statement.
“What I can confirm right now is that Alex Meruelo is very interested in purchasing the Coyotes,” Coyotes President and CEO Ahron Cohen said in a statement. “Alex’s track record of strong business success certainly precedes him—and it makes him a great candidate to help our team build upon the positive momentum we have established over the past year. We will keep all the members of Our Pack updated of important milestones moving forward.”
No Conflict of Interest
It was once unthinkable to have anyone with casino interests buy a professional sports organization. Since the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018, leagues have been more receptive to the idea.
The most notable owner is Billionaire Tilman Fertitta. The restaurant owner and entrepreneur , who owns the Golden Nugget casinos, acquired the NBA Houston Rockets in in the fall of 2017 for $2.2 billion. As part of the agreement, his casino is not allowed to take any bets on games involving the Rockets.
Another casino that owns a team is MGM Resorts, which owns the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA. They purchased the team in 2017, and relocated them from San Antonio to Sin City. As part of the agreement no MGM property can take bets involving the Aces.